Undergraduate Research

Mentoring Undergradate Researchers

Planning for a Mentee

Develop a Project (in concert with the student researcher, if possible)

  • Reasonable in scope
  • Feasible considering time/skills
  • Challenging
  • Multi-faceted
  • May be designed collaboratively with student, or defined as part of a larger effort
  • Designed to generate student's own data/findings

Written, detailed project descriptions get students going

Design a Selection Process

  • Post a description of the research or creative works proposal online or on the department bulletin board.  Share with your classes and meet with student interested in a research experience
  • Use a combination of written application and interview
  • Consider level of independence required
  • Identify materials for students to review before coming to interview

Keep in mind undergraduate needs/issues—need for training to use equipment/resources, easily discouraged by disappointing results, lack of awareness of research "culture" and social interactions in large research groups.

Fostering Growth

Keep Communications Open

  • Establish regular meetings to discuss project, questions, documentation, and resources
  • Check in regularly regarding coursework, stress level, and research progress

Most problems with undergraduate research result from a lack of communication or miscommunication.

Encourage Scholarly Interaction

  • Provide opportunities to interact with other researchers
    – Research group meetings
    – Graduate student presentations
    – Departmental lectures, events, gatherings

Encourage mentees to present their research when ready

Integrating the Mentee into the Research Environment

Define Expectations

  • Establish expectations about work habits, etc.
  • Devise a work plan and a communication plan, if appropriate
  • Provide information on awarding academic credit
  • Set aside regular time for discussion
  • Show openness to questions, encourage student to share ideas
  • Avoid a "cookbook" or "canned" approach; emphasize insight gained through failure and novel discoveries/contributions to the field.

Orient Student Toward Culture of Research

  • Introduce student to research resources (including people)
  • Determine training needs and strategies
  • Discuss intellectual property issues and ethical research conduct in your discipline
  • Introduce student to human/animal subject procedures, safety protocols, etc., as needed
  • Define milestones (big and small)
  • Emphasize documentation of research and progress

The Millennial Generation: "The Millennial generation has seven distinguishing traits: special, sheltered, confident, team oriented, achieving, pressured, and conventional…[they] have ambitions but no plans, or unrealistic plans to achieve them…"

Information adapted from "Mentoring Undergraduate Researchers: Where to Begin?" Janice DeCosmo and Jennifer Harris. Available online through: http://www.washington.edu/undergradresearch/files/2014/06/UWPA-Workshop-121206.pdf